Progressive ‘De-Prosecutors’ Disrupt Criminal Justice System, Experts Say
A new breed of local prosecutors has taken District Attorney offices around the country by storm in a coordinated campaign that is tearing at the foundations of American justice system. The ideology that underpins their agenda is antagonistic to the traditional conception of criminal justice and, if taken to its logical conclusion, demands its destruction, several experts told The Epoch Times.
Such DAs have been variously called “rogue prosecutors,” “de-prosecutors,” or “Soros prosecutors,” based on the fact that progressive billionaire George Soros has prolifically funded their campaigns and support structures. They started to enter the scene around 2014 and have quickly become a major power block, controlling at least 75 DA offices with jurisdiction over one in every five Americans, including half of the country’s 50 most populous cities, according to research by Sean Kennedy, a criminal justice expert at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a liberty-oriented think tank.
“They believe that the criminal justice system is excessively punitive and racially biased and that it is irredeemable,” he said.
“And so they’re trying to undermine it from the inside.”
The “rogue prosecutor movement” traces its roots back to the “prison abolition movement,” according to Zack Smith, former federal prosecutor who’s been writing extensively on the phenomenon as a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“There is actually a movement; it’s a Marxist movement that believes we should abolish prisons in the United States,” he said.
“Many members of this movement … bought into the idea that our criminal justice system is systemically racist, that we have a problem with mass incarceration, we arrest too many people, incarcerate too many people. And so because of that, they want to lower prison population and they want to basically make many, many things that have traditionally been crimes either not be crimes or make the punishment for them very minor, like a speeding ticket, civil infraction.”
Proponents of this idea, however, must have been aware that it would be very difficult to convince legislators to enshrine such a policy in law, Smith suspected.
“What is very clever about what George Soros and others figured out is, rather than doing the hard work of getting the legislature to actually change the laws, decriminalize certain things, … they figured out they can elect District Attorneys to office,” he said.
“And if the DA won’t prosecute crimes, they won’t seek sentencing enhancements. It doesn’t matter how many arrests the police make, the criminal won’t be held accountable.”
The most common tactics of the DAs include establishing policies to not prosecute entire segments of crimes, such as theft under a certain threshold and non-violent offenses more broadly, as well as undercharge crimes to avoid mandatory minimum sentences. They also tend to avoid charges that would lead to “immigration consequences,” meaning serious charges that could trigger deportation of a criminal alien, according to Kennedy.
“Victims are particularly ignored and disregarded by these offices,” he noted.
Efforts of the DAs are sometimes amplified by state or local legislations that make it more difficult to put a criminal behind bars, such as by preventing judges from setting a bail.
Implementation of the policies tends to coincide with increases in crime, though not necessarily across the board or right away. It appears it sometimes takes some time for criminals to learn the ropes of the new regime. Sooner or later, however, they start to take advantage of it, several experts have pointed out.
“The message these individuals are receiving is that there’s not going to be any consequences for their actions. If they’re not going to be held on bail, if they’re not going to be prosecuted, then what’s the incentive for them not to keep repeating the same actions over and over and over again?” Smith said.
The policies also tend to demoralize police, who may see their work as pointless if, upon arrest, the suspect is quickly back on the street.
“Taking somebody to jail is a hassle because you have to get off your beat, get them in a car, take them down to booking, potentially spend hours filling out paperwork, all for what?” said Thomas Hogan, an adjunct fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and former federal prosecutor.
Some departments have simply ceased to arrest people for the crimes they know won’t be prosecuted anyway, he said.
There are exceptions, though.
In New York City, crime has increased but arrests have gone up too. That’s because the NYPD deals with five different DAs, one for each borough, according to Hogan. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg falls into the Soros-backed ranks, but the other ones are not necessarily onboard with the de-incarceration agenda—or at least not to the same extent. Moreover, the NYPD is large and powerful enough that they “do their own thing,” Hogan said.
“NYPD’s response was, ‘You make your decisions what you’re going to do after we arrest them, but we’re going to arrest them anyway,’” he said.
To some extent, the influx of Soros-backed DAs has “caught pro-public safety organizations, individuals, and the public off guard,” Kennedy said.
“These are very sleepy races. Prosecutor races are low-attention, low-spending, low-on-the-ballot affairs.”
Soros, however, went in with duffle bags of money.
“It’s just unprecedented the relative amount of money he gives,” Kennedy said.
“Giving a million dollars to a local DA candidate, what has occurred here in Northern Virginia, and millions of dollars to Philadelphia and Chicago and New York and Los Angeles … that is unprecedented and almost unfathomable.”
Over the past decade, Soros and groups he substantially funds dished out over $40 million in direct spending on DA campaigns, according to a June report by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), a Virginia-based nonprofit, which Kennedy co-authored (pdf).
Before any formidable opposition could mobilize, Soros-backed candidates were sweeping up elections left and right.
“He caught people off guard because nobody expected anyone to do that,” Kennedy said.
Countering the progressive DAs is no easy task, according to Kennedy, who’s personally helping with one recall effort in Northern Virginia.
“And a lot of the jurisdictions where these prosecutors won, they are very difficult to dislodge because they are liberals in big liberal cities where the Democratic primary is the only game in town and all you have to do is appeal to very liberal Democratic primary voters,” he said.
“If you have a lot of money and strong ideology, convincing that narrow subset of voters that your policies are just or working, or [that you] just need more time or whatever, is very easy to do.”
Indeed, a number of the Soros-backed DAs have easily sailed through reelections already, though they did so “before crime really got out of control,” Kennedy said.
“We will see what happens in the next few years if crime stays elevated, especially in these jurisdictions, if the public gets sick and tired of it.”
In recent years, though, there has been some successful resistance to the progressive DAs.
In Suffolk County, Massachusetts, a more law-and-order-minded DA won against the Soros-backed candidate in the Democratic primary, de-facto guaranteeing her election.
In Baltimore County, a “tough-on-crime” Democrat defeated a Soros-backed challenger, Kennedy said.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Republican defeated the Soros-backed Democrat for the Pulaski County DA office.
On the other hand, Soros-backed candidates won in Portland, Maine, and rebuffed a challenger in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this year.
Still, Soros’s success rate has dropped significantly, according to Kennedy.
“Finally, the tide is turning where these Soros prosecutors don’t just waltz into office every time they go on the ballot,” he said.
“When there’s organized opposition—and a good candidate to be honest—to oppose the Soros prosecutor, then we’re seeing success.”
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 19:40